Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Evil Eye

22"The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.
23"But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”
(Matthew 6:22-23;NASB)

Here, our Lord is using the analogy of the eye, to describe the condition of our spiritual insight or understanding. Just as the eye allows light to enter into our body, so our spiritual sight or understanding either allows us to be illuminated by God’s Truth, or blocks or distorts our vision of the Truth. It is imperative that we guard our hearts, since our hearts govern our spiritual vision. Once out hearts become centered on worldly goods, our vision becomes blocked from illumination from God’s Truth.

The “clear”, or good eye will allow the entrance of the truth of God’s Word, allowing us to receive illumination and insight from God. This will allow us to discern clear direction and guidance from God, as our hearts are changed. Our focus in life will be centered on things of eternal importance and we will seek those actions which are pleasing to God and live for His glory. The wealth of this world will pale in comparison to the true riches stored up in Heaven. However, if our eye is “bad” or “evil”, our hearts are darkened and this condition affects our whole being. In this condition, it is impossible to perceive clear direction as it pertains to spiritual matters. And we set our priorities based on the condition of our heart, since it is the seat of our passions, desires and affections. Instead of seeking God and His glory, we seek our own glory, succumbing to our passions and lust for material and worldly gain.

It is sad that there are those who allow their hearts to be deceived by the wealth of the world. There are many who regularly attend church, yet there seems to be little spiritual progress in their life. Spiritual growth is stunted and there seems to be a lack of genuine love and passion for the Word of God. Sadly, as you talk with many of them, the overriding theme in their conversations seems to be worldly focused. It is no wonder that it is nearly impossible for them to perceive spiritual matters.

This is why Jesus said in reference to this condition “how great is the darkness!” This condition will snuff out the desire for God and His glory. This is why we need to remind ourselves of the importance of guarding our hearts and minds. I can’t help but wonder just how much this condition is significantly contributing to the shallowness of the church today. Once the focus in life becomes worldly pleasure and wealth, the desire for God and His Word is severely diminished. Just survey the titles of books and materials in Christian bookstores today. Multitudes of books and materials are focused on man-centered philosophy wrapped in a few verses Scripture, with themes clearly associated with a humanistic viewpoint.

But exploring a little deeper concerning the term “bad” or “evil” eye, and the “clear” or “healthy” eye reveals a little more depth to the meaning. The term “clear” is translated from the Greek “haplous”. It is similar to the word “haplotes” translated “liberality” in Romans 12:8. In fact, “haplotes” is derived from “haplous” and the same term is also used in 2 Corinthians 9:13 in reference to the generous giving of the Macedonians. It should appear clear that the terms are associated with generosity. Basically, a generous heart is the sign of good spiritual health.

In contrast, “bad” or “evil” in Matthew 6:23 is derived from the Greek “poneros” and is used in Scripture in Matthew 20:15 to refer to “envy” or “covetousness”. This was the parable of the landowner who hired laborers at various times to labor in his vineyard. Those who were hired last and worked for a shorter period of time received the same wages as the ones who were hired first. The laborers who were hired first grumbled over this fact. The landowner replied with the fact that he was within his right to exercise his generosity as he wished. Here the term “evil” or “envious” eye is used in reference to their response to his generosity. This fits the context in Matthew 6, which speaks of the love of money.

It is also worthy to note that the term “evil eye” is used elsewhere in Scripture and denotes a grudging or greedy spirit. Proverbs 28:22 describes the man with the “evil eye” who hastily chases after wealth. Those who have their minds set on the things of the world will inevitably develop a greedy attitude toward money, and do anything in their power to gain more of it. In greed, many begin to make rash decisions in managing their money, ultimately losing it all. But worst of all, once this greed takes over, the spiritual blinders go down and our hearts are darkened.

So how about those who seem to give large amounts of money even within the church? Many seem to be very generous. We can find the answer by reading Luke 21:2 and Mark 12:42. Here, Jesus observed those who were giving to the treasury, where donations and offerings to the temple were made. Many of the rich were giving a considerable amount of money. But there was a poor widow who gave a miniscule amount of money, two small copper coins, which was a considerable sacrifice on her part. The term “poor widow” denotes someone in extreme poverty. The two small copper coins she put into the treasury were each only equal to one eighth of a cent, yet it was “all she had to live on” (v. 44). To put this in perspective, each coin was equal to 1/64 of a denarius and a denarius was equal to one day’s wage. She would have been a prime candidate to receive aid, but she was giving what little bit she had in her possession. The rich were giving out of their abundance, which required little sacrifice on their part. Perhaps they were somewhat proud and boastful in their giving. The reward in giving to God is largely dependent on the attitude of the heart, not the amount of the gift.

'1And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury.
2And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins.
3And He said, "Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them;
4for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on."' (Luke 21:1-4; NASB)

It is extremely important that we as believers get a good grasp on our attitude towards money. This can be the greatest hindrance to our service to God and Scripture teaches that God is not going to entrust us with true riches in terms of responsibility if we cannot manage the “unrighteous wealth” (Luke 16:11). If we prove faithful in handling our money, God will be more likely to entrust us with greater spiritual responsibility. It is frightening that this issue can creep into our lives so subtly, yet it is extremely lethal in its ability to spiritually blind us. And the culture in America can have a tendency to lead us in this direction if we allow it to.

As a test of your spiritual condition concerning this matter, ask yourself what is your response to the Word of God? Do you have spiritual sensitivity to Scriptural truth that makes you desire to put into practice what you read? When making spiritual decisions, particularly in how you serve God, is money a key determining factor to whether or not you are willing to serve God in a certain capacity? Are you more concerned with your spiritual growth or are you preoccupied with gaining wealth? Your attitude toward money and wealth is a key factor in your spiritual health.

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